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    France Fights Panic From Bird Flu Outbreak

    25 February, 2006
    PARIS - French President Jacques Chirac urged consumers not to panic Saturday, hours after the government announced the European Union ‘s first outbreak of deadly bird flu in commercial poultry.

    Panic among consumers is "totally unjustified," Chirac said during a visit to open the annual Paris Agriculture Fair. "The virus in question ... is automatically destroyed by cooking. So there is absolutely no danger."

    Japan‘s decision Friday to suspend imports of French poultry and poultry products, including foie gras, signaled the potential impact even before the confirmation that the deadly H5N1 virus had decimated a farm of more than 11,000 turkeys at Versailleux in southeastern France.

    Hong Kong also has temporarily suspended imports of French poultry, Brenda Chan, a spokeswoman of Hong Kong‘s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, said Sunday.

    The lethal strain has spread from Asia to at least 10 European countries and Africa, and scientists fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, sparking a pandemic. The disease has killed at least 93 people, mostly in Southeast Asia.

    No human cases of bird flu have been reported in the EU.

    The farmer‘s family was quarantined and vehicles passing through a protection zone around the farm were required to ride through a 100-foot-long trough of disinfectant.

    France has some 200,000 farms that raise 900 million birds each year. In 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, the French poultry sector generated more than $3.6 billion in revenues — more than 20 percent of the EU‘s total poultry production.

    Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said Friday that authorities were perplexed about how the virus appeared in commercial poultry despite precautionary measures.

    Claude Lassus, the veterinarian for the Versailleux farm, told France-Info radio Friday that he believed the straw theory was the only explanation for the infection.

    Authorities in the eastern German state of Brandenburg said Saturday that two wild birds had tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the first cases in that part of Germany.

    The state‘s Agriculture Ministry said the two dead birds — a swan and a duck — were found around the town of Schwedt, northeast of Berlin and close to the border with Poland.

    Source
    localnewsleader




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